Lesson Plan: D-Day and the Battle of Normandy Fact Quest

Aim

To increase youth’s awareness of Canadian efforts on D-Day and in the Battle of Normandy.

Objectives

Youth will:

  • demonstrate a basic understanding of the events surrounding D-Day and the Battle of Normandy;
  • gain an appreciation of the challenges faced by the Canadians who served on D-Day and in the Battle of Normandy; and
  • develop an awareness of the importance of remembering the sacrifices and achievements of Canadian Veterans.

Target Audience

This activity is suitable for ages 15 to 18.

Sequence of Events and Anticipated Time Frame [70 minutes]

(This activity can be modified to fit available time.)

  • Introductory Discussion [15 minutes]
  • Research [20 minutes]
  • Debrief [20 minutes]
  • Wrap-up Discussion [15 minutes]
  • Possible Extension Activity [variable]

Materials

Introductory Discussion [15 minutes]

Begin a discussion about wars. More than one million Canadians served in uniform during the Second World War—that is more than the entire population of some provinces. Ask youth if any of them know about D-Day and the Battle of Normandy, or the important role that Canadians played in this pivotal campaign. You may wish to record their responses in a thought web.

Talk about where France is compared to Canada and how large and deadly the Second World War was. You could discuss things like how the Canadian soldiers had to go ashore at Juno Beach where barbed wire, heavy artillery, machine guns and enemy soldiers defended the coast. You could explore existing knowledge youth may have based on movies they have seen, books they have read or stories they have heard.

Share that June 6, 2019, marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy and how some Veterans will be returning to France to participate in special events to mark this important milestone. Even 75 years later, Canada remembers those who served and sacrificed in this important battle.

Research [20 minutes]

Distribute the Canada Remembers D-Day and the Battle of Normandy information sheet and the question sheet. Have everyone read the information sheet and answer the questions. Tell them that they will be called on to share what they have learned. They should also locate France and Normandy on a map during this phase of the activity.

Debrief [20 minutes]

Ask them to identify France and Normandy on the world map and lead a debrief of the answers they found for the questions. Take the opportunity to see if anyone has family or neighbours who may have served in the Second World War. They can also share their personal thoughts on Canada’s military efforts in that key battle so long ago.

Wrap-up Discussion [15 minutes]

Ask them to reflect on the following statement:

Some 14,000 Canadians landed at Juno Beach on June 6, 1944, and 359 of these brave men lost their lives. D-Day would be only the beginning of more than two and a half months of hard fighting in Normandy that would eventually see more than 5,000 Canadians being killed. But, with great courage and sacrifice, the Canadians played a key role in the Allied victory there and the eventual liberation of Europe during the Second World War.

Then lead a discussion based on the following questions:

  • Do you think the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform on D-Day and in the Battle of Normandy to help the Allies triumph in the Second World War were worth it?
  • What do you imagine the French think about the Canadians who fought so hard and sacrificed so greatly to help liberate their country?
  • Do you think it is important to remember the Canadians who served in the Second World War even though the war has been over for almost 75 years?

You could cap off the lesson by showing the Heroes Remember D-Day video (11 minutes, 22 seconds) which gives an engaging overview of what it was like to go ashore at Juno Beach on June 6, 1944, in the words of Canadian Veterans who were there.

Possible Extension Activity [variable]

There are a number of ways you could extend this lesson. For example, you could ask youth to imagine that they are war correspondents covering D-Day and then have them file news reports on the battle’s events. These could be in the form of mock newspaper articles, radio broadcasts or newsreels. Alternately, they could imagine that they took part in D-Day and were writing home the next day to tell their family or friends what they had just been through. Or they could imagine that they are a loved one writing to a soldier who took part in the attack asking if he is okay, what it was like and how he is feeling.

Inviting a Veteran who took part in D-Day and the Battle of Normandy to be a guest speaker would be an exceptional opportunity to learn first-hand what it was like to serve in the cause of peace and freedom during the Second World War. For more information visit the Memory Project Speakers Bureau website.

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